Thai Raksa Chart Party 'accepts King's command with full loyalty'

Posted February 11, 2019

Thailand has some of the most severe lese majeste laws in the world and the king's word is seldom challenged.

But the Thai king torpedoed his sister's bid in a sharply worded statement the same day that said bringing senior royal family members into politics was against tradition and "highly inappropriate".

A new Thai political party vowed Saturday, February 9, to obey a command from the king blocking the candidacy of a princess for prime minister in a dramatic reversal that appeared to boost the junta's chances ahead of March elections.

The latest developments stand to benefit current Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, a former army chief who staged a 2014 coup against Thaksin's sister Yingluck Shinawatra and now wants to stay in the same position after the election.

Prayuth had been considered the front-runner for the March 24 polls because changes in constitutional law and election rules were implemented by his government in a manner making it hard for political parties without military backing to capture the premier's post.

For Thaksin, it amounts to another setback - one of many since he was first removed in a 2006 coup, in part due to accusations of undermining the monarchy. She lived in the USA for more than 26 years before they divorced in 1998.

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His well-funded political machine returned his allies to power twice, and his maneuvering was seen as the key element in arranging for Ubolratana's selection by a Thaksin-affiliated party.

Thai Raksa Chart responded swiftly, canceling a campaign event on Saturday and issuing a statement saying it would respect "tradition and royal customs".

He called the monarchy "the centre that glues the hearts of the Thai people together" and said both "the monarch and the royal family members are above politics".

"Thai Raksa Chart party complies with the royal command", the party said in a statement sent out to reporters.

"Thank you for all the love and encouragement", the princess, who gave up her royal titles to marry a foreigner, said in a typically colorful Instagram post on Friday afternoon.

"I have accepted the Thai Raksa Chart party nomination for prime minister to show my rights and freedom without any privileges above other fellow Thai citizens under the constitution".

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In an Instagram post, she reiterated that she had relinquished all her royal titles and now lived as a commoner.

Ubolratana is running for prime minister but not a seat in parliament, which is allowed under the election law.

Ms Ubolratana's foray into politics follows a long period of mourning for King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who died in October 2016, and as her brother establishes himself on the throne.

The palace, however, said she is still a member of the ruling dynasty. She studied mathematics and bio-chemistry at MIT and earned a master's degree in public health from the University of California at Los Angeles.

Ubolratana, who is active on Instagram, did not directly mention the king's order in a Saturday message, merely thanking people for their support and encouragement and insisting on her honest desire to see Thailand progress with rights and opportunities for all its people. She is referred to as "Tunkramom Ying", which means "Daughter to the Queen Regent", and is treated by officials as a member of the royal family. The other two now also live in Thailand. "But, because the royal family is usually secretive, we may not hear as much as we'd want".

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